Book on my shelf: If cats disappeared from the world
I recently read ‘If Cats Disappeared from the World’ by Genki Kawamura. In this novel a postman who is dying from a brain tumour makes a deal with the devil to prolong his life.
The devil gives the man a choice: make something disappear from the world and be given an extra day to live. The offer seems simple. Who wouldn’t choose an extra day of life?
We follow the postman as he contemplates the things in his life that he loves the most. He reflects on his relationships: what his friends mean to him, his first (and only) love, his estranged father and his dead mother.
The devil offers up choice after choice. Movies, chocolate, trains… The devil even proposes making cats disappear from the world – but what about the postman’s beloved cat Cabbage?
A life well lived, the specifics are what makes up your life
As I read this book, I thought about what makes a life worth living and was reminded of a blog post I had read some time ago. Kate was diagnosed with terminal cancer at age 35 shares her experience. Below is an excerpt from her post that I loved:
Universal platitudes — like “everything happens for a reason” — are so unsatisfying because everything beautiful is specific. Noticing the particularities of your wonderful, totally ridiculous life is the best part. My husband’s eyes and hair are the same color, 100% the same color, and it sounds super blah, but I love it. This is the crappy bungalow I live in, that’s the lawn I’m never going to seed in the fall, this is my life! If you don’t notice life in its specificity, you’re not in it. You’re somewhere else. You’re somewhere else until you’re asked to trade it out, and then all you want are the specifics.
Making a trade-off
And that’s the thing about being given an extra day of life for making something in the world disappear – what do you really give up in return? What is the trade-off?
Another book that also touches on universal themes of mortality and what a life well lived means is Paul Kalanithi’s memoir, When Breath Becomes Air. His writing is so astute and he blends his knowledge of the human brain (he was a neurosurgeon) with his love of literature to examine what it meant for him to live with the uncertainty of knowing for sure you are dying, even though you don’t know when that day will come.
I am really fond of reading books that tackle what do we choose to do with the time we are given. At the heart of it, none of us truly know how long we have to live. It could be 90 years or it could be another 48 hours. Reading If cats disappeared from the world, I thought about what I personally would give up to be given more time. It made me think about the specifics, the wonderful particularities of this ridiculously beautiful life of mine.
This book is a simple, humorous but heartbreaking look at the one thing we can all be sure of – our 100% mortality rate.